In the spirit of DeCharlene Williams, Africatown Community Land Trust and King County Equity Now have organized a Juneteenth celebration that uplifts the holiday’s history here in Seattle.

by Jas Keimig


On June 19, 1865, Union Gen. Gordon Granger informed the enslaved Black Americans in Galveston, Texas — which had been under Confederate control up to that moment — that they had, in fact, been freed by the Emancipation Proclamation two years earlier. That day became known as Juneteenth — a combination of “June” and “nineteenth” — an independence holiday primarily celebrated by Black folks across the United States.

And, tomorrow, Africatown Community Land Trust (ACLT) and King County Equity Now (KCEN) have come together to put on what they call the biggest Juneteenth celebration in the Seattle area. The Juneteenth Freedom Fest will take place at Jimi Hendrix Park from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. and features hundreds of vendors, performers, and musicians commemorating the historic day with food, music, and fun.

“This year, our Juneteenth Fest will serve as a day of joy and community celebration, a day of remembrance and a day to collectively call for municipal investment in the restitution and repair of Seattle’s Black community,” ACLT wrote in a press release announcing the event.

Black communities across the country have celebrated Juneteenth for decades with music, games, barbecues, strawberry soda, red velvet cake, and other red-colored food to commemorate the blood shed by enslaved peoples. But it’s only in the past few years that the day received more national attention following the 2020 Black Lives Matter Protests decrying the murder of George Floyd at the hands of white police officers. In 2021, the federal government designated Juneteenth a federal holiday.

While there’s still much work to be done in regard to equity, police brutality against Black people, and civil rights, Juneteenth is a moment of respite for the Black community in the United States.

Juneteenth has a long history in the Seattle area, a tradition upheld by Black families moving out of the South and to the Pacific Northwest for better economic opportunities. Back in 1983, the late DeCharlene Williams started one of the first formal Juneteenth celebrations in Pratt Park, inviting the Black community out to come together, eat, boogie, and uplift their shared history.

“We have to come together as a Black community to support each other,” Williams’s daughter Rita Green told The Seattle Times last year. “And to help ourselves grow and become prosperous … That is something that my mom truly believed.”

Africatown and KCEN are continuing Williams’ legacy with their Juneteenth Freedom Fest. For the afternoon and evening of Juneteenth, the organization has put together an event with hundreds of food and commercial vendors, community resources, and national and local talent. You can expect to groove to the musical stylings of R&B singer J. Holiday as well as a freedom and reparations panel by rap duo Dead Prez. Rapper Vic Daggs II, vocalist Shaina Sheperd, singer-songwriter Taliwhoah, dance company Kutt ‘N’Up, and more will be on deck to perform with DJs Moni, Topspin, and Tazz Enrico spinning the tunes.

The Williams family celebrations were just the beginning. Seattle’s Juneteenth events keep getting bigger every year and are expanding in smaller neighborhood happenings like in Skyway, Renton, Tukwila, and more. Check out our Juneteenth 2024 Guide for an up-to-date listing of celebrations around the South End.


In observance of Juneteenth, the South Seattle Emerald™ will be closed tomorrow.


Jas Keimig
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Jas Keimig is a writer and critic based in Seattle. They previously worked on staff at The Stranger, covering visual art, film, music, and stickers. Their work has also appeared in Crosscut, South Seattle Emerald, i-D, Netflix, and The Ticket. They also co-write Unstreamable for Scarecrow Video, a column and screening series highlighting films you can’t find on streaming services. They won a game show once.

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